May 28, 2023

Adventures in Football #78: Tolka Park  

Adventures in Football #78: Tolka Park  


May 27, 2023 




If I had to sum up my Saturday afternoon in Dublin it would be with a series of pints of Guinness, including this beauty (ignore the head, it hadn’t finishing settling) in Mulligans, the boozer that Roddy Doyle placed his main character in during The Van. He wasn’t wrong. It’s one of the best pints of Guinness going. This pub is everything that every New York ‘Irish’ pub is trying to be and failing.  


Anyway, we’re here for the football! We had to park up and walk to Tolka Park, which took about half an hour and wore Maria out. I’m writing this Sunday lunch time and I still haven’t slept since the game, so this might get a wee bit sketchy.  

History! I should probably do that! Tolka Park was opened a hundred years ago. Shelbourne only became residents here in the 1980s. The original tenants were Drumcondra who merged with Home Farm in 1972. The team lost its fanbase and Tolka Park became a shadow of its former self. That is until Shelbourne’s arrival in 1989. They’d already played games at the ground but moved in officially in that year.  

While everything was hunky dory in the early years, they ran into debt and suffered with floods in 2000. Shelbourne sold the ground in 2006 with the intention of ground sharing at Dalymount Park. There is a real danger that Tolka Park will cease to be, although in recent years the council look like selling the ground back to Shelbourne and them staying put.  

This is the main stand at Tolka Park, it’s the Richmond Road Stand. This is the only thing I could see when I approached the ground so we just went straight in. It’s a rarity, we actually turn up at the right entrance. It’s a big stand that goes the length of the pitch and housed the bulk of the supporters for today’s fixture.  

This is the away end and it’s actually in use today so there’s are Peamount fans down there. It’s pretty wrecked. In 2010 the stand, the Ballybough End, was closed by the Dublin Health and Safety Unit. It only reopened last year. It’s all standing and looks a bit rough, although not a patch on how fucked the same end is at Dalymount Park.  

Opposite us is the Riverside Stand. It has a sitting area about half the length of the pitch, in the middle, with terracing on either side. This is a shot of the terracing before the game. By the end that was covered in people. It seems to be a popular spot.  

Finally we have this, the Drumcondra Stand. It was opened in 2000 and sits in the corner, taking up about a third of the one end. Oddly enough, this has also been shut down because of safety concerns. The dressing rooms are underneath it and that’s where the players emerge from. Alongside it are a bunch of stalls including merch, food and drinks. The toilets are in the corner and are ancient. There is a strong smell of urine.  

The teams emerge from that corner, running away from the smell of stale piss. These are two of the better teams in the league. Both in the top three at start of play.  

We’re right on top of the action and Peamount offer a lot in the early going. They score from a corner and it is 0-1. During the first half we get a few moments of madness. The Peamount keeper completely misses a simple cross, perhaps losing the ball in the sunshine, and it gets headed towards goal, only to be cleared off the line after the ball hits the bar. At the other end Peamount could have doubled their advantage only to see another corner headed off the line. There’s a lot of this sort of thing! 

Half time and I take a stroll to photograph the Richmond Road stand from the other side. I love being able to walk around grounds. Part of my dislike of the Bohs game was how everyone was penned in. It’s understandable but frustrating.  

Here’s the other side of the ground from the far corner. Plus the player’s tunnel and a shot from behind the keeper.  

I also spotted this bizarre “emergency exit”. I think it’s there an emergency, that wall is easy enough to hop over. What emergency would require that gate? Presumable it’s how they stretcher injured players off the field but to have one in multiple places is a bit weird.  

Second half gets underway and Peamount have a great chance to double their lead, rounding the keeper only for another goal line clearance to deny them. Shels take over in the latter stages, with Peamount looking to hit on the counter. Shelbourne have a stack of good positions where either the ball comes in too early, or the cross isn’t accurate or in one case, the number 9 fires a shot straight at the keeper.  

Right at the death Shelbourne have a corner cleared off the line. So many goal line scrambles in this game. It’s crazy it only had one goal in it. 425 fans go home disappointed as Shelbourne lose at home. Peamount go clear at the top.  

That concludes my mini-trip to Ireland. It’s off to the Guinness brewery for us and then the airport, where we stayed overnight and therefore didn’t get any sleep. Still going, just, at 11.45am as I write this. The flight back was piloted by a man called Alan Duffy who referred to his co-pilot “Remy” as “Top Gun”. That was reassuring. We made it back in one piece. Cheers Top Gun!  



A much reduced crowd, compared to the night before, but a decent effort. No chanting to speak of but better reactions to chances than I’ve seen at a lot of women’s games on the same sort of level. **½.  



Tickets were eight Euro, which is £6.95. That’s a bargain in anyone’s money. ****½  



It was a good game. Lots of chances, lots of dramatic clearances to prevent certain goals. ***½ 



Unlike Dalymount Park, Tolka is on the tram route. It still takes about 30 minutes from Dublin Castle. It’s a 40 minute walk, which in the heat was no fun. ** 



As with Dalymount Park there was a lot to love about Tolka Park. It’s a little bit odd in places, a little bit uneven. The views were grand. The facilities were a little shaky but better than Dalymount Park. **** 


OVERALL: 16.5 

A very good score for Shelbourne, putting them above rivals Bohs. The fact it was a much cheaper game and a more free-flowing contest in more clement and pleasing conditions helped a lot. As with Dalymount, there was a lot to love but unlike Dalymount, there were less obvious flaws. Anyway you slice it, I had a great time in Ireland watching the football and I’m sure I’ll be back at some point.  

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